Which Handgun Should I Buy?

A gun that properly fits the shooter’s hand allows the shooter to take advantage of natural eye/hand coordination because it naturally aligns the muzzle of the gun as if pointing a finger at the target.

A gun that properly fits the shooter’s hand allows the shooter to take advantage of natural eye/hand coordination because it naturally aligns the muzzle of the gun as if pointing a finger at the target.

Assuming that you are buying a gun for personal protection, the first issue to face is whether you are going to carry the firearm with you, or keep it off body, but in a convenient location.

Will you carry the gun with you wherever you go or just under certain, rare circumstances? The answers to these questions help to determine the type and size of the gun, as well as its caliber, to optimize the firearm for your intended purpose.

holding handgun

Ideally, the backstrap of the gun should be nearly centered in the web of the hand between the thumb and the index finger.

What’s your hand size? How skilled are you at shooting? The size of the user and the skill level of the user with firearms can make a huge difference in finding the best tool for the job.

There are other considerations, but if we just go with these, we can cover a lot of ground toward narrowing the possibilities.

Most people tend to think about small handguns when the concept of personal protection is brought up. This may be on the right track, but there are other considerations too.

One primary consideration is fitting the gun to the hand. There are two elements to this. First is the circumference of the grip. The dominant hand should have contact on as much of the grip surface as possible without the tips of the fingers coming into hard contact with the heel of the palm. If the fingers interfere with the palm, consistent grip is compromised and multiple accurate shots are unlikely. Conversely, if the grip circumference is too large, the finger tips won’t clear the front strap (the area of the grip directly behind and in line with the trigger guard) and will make it very difficult to control the movement of the gun during discharge.


If the index finger isn’t long enough to reach the trigger properly with the correct grip position, the gun is too big for the hand.

Ideally, the back strap of the gun (the rearmost portion of the grip in line with the front strap and the trigger guard) should be nearly centered in the web of the hand between the thumb and the index finger. The goal is to have the muzzle of the gun pointing at the same place as if we were pointing at our intended target with our index finger. This allows us to take advantage of our natural eye/hand coordination which is consistently available to us even under stress.

The second element to fitting the gun to the hand is trigger reach. With the recommended grip position of the hand on the grip, the index finger should be able to reach and pull the trigger to fire the gun without pulling the muzzle off the target. At a minimum, the index finger should have full contact across the face of the trigger to fire the first shot.

If the index finger isn’t long enough to reach the trigger properly with the correct grip position, the gun is too big for the hand. A short reach trigger or a smaller grip circumference are options if you already have a gun that is too big for your hand.

Conversely, if the index finger naturally extends across the face of the trigger past the first joint, there is the potential of the finger movement being restricted to the point of not being able to fully pull the trigger to discharge the gun.

By fitting the gun to the hand, you should be able point the gun naturally and fire it without disturbing your natural point. An easy way to verify your ability to hold the gun and operate the trigger without adding movement to the muzzle is the “Wall Drill” [see CCM July 2010, p. 16 (https://www.usconcealedcarry.com/?p=2415)].

small gun

When the firearm is too small for the shooter’s hand, it becomes very difficult to control during rapid follow-up shots.

Gun size also dovetails with body size and type for those who intend to carry concealed. A good place to start is on the dominant side at the center of the hip, in line with the trouser seam. A belt mount will be the simplest to start with for most people. You should be able to access and draw the gun in the most expedient manner and holster, all with the dominant hand only, and carrying a handgun should not interfere with your daily life. You may have to change your wardrobe to effectively carry concealed, but that is a small price to pay for being able to protect yourself.

Whether the handgun is intended for concealed carry or secreted in your home for home defense, the same principles of hand fit apply. If the overall external dimensions of the pistol are not of concern, an extended magazine could save having to reload in the middle of the night, especially when you are on the move and forgot to bring your spare magazine with you.

I have to agree with the general thinking that a 9mm Parabellum pistol is a good starting point for a semi-automatic, however, the new high performance ammunition currently loaded for the .380 ACP should be considered as a viable option. For those who prefer the revolver, the venerable .38 Special cartridge is the gold standard.

small gun

Since hands come in different sizes, a gun that is far too small for one shooter might be just right for another.

Finally, as important as anything that I have mentioned, the gun must be reliable. It has to work first time every time if your life is dependent on it. The road to reliability is paved with a quality firearm, properly maintained and accompanied with ammunition of equal quality designed for the purpose at hand.

Along with that goes serious training and regular practice so that when you face the unexpected your likelihood of success is very high. Just because you own a gun is next to meaningless if you don’t know how to use it, particularly under a heightened emotional state.

Simple Is Good!


[ George Harris has dedicated his life to the study and education of others in firearms and tactics training. As a military shooter he earned the distinction of becoming Double Distinguished with the Service Pistol and the Service Rifle. George retired after 21 years as Co- Founder and Director of a well known firearms academy to continue the pursuit of his passion for firearms training and program development. ]



This new column from longtime writer George Harris will address questions that concern new shooters and people just getting started with concealed carry. Email your questions to questions@usconcealedcarry.com.

43 Comments (Add Yours)

  1. @George Harris. If you like guns as much as me, the answer is all of them. :)

  2. I have an SR9 and I bought the veridian laser sight that was recomended with it. The question is how do I get a holster to fit it, or does anyone make a diferent type of laser for your gun. I know CT makes a laser for the SR9c and I can get a holster for this type of gun,but I was hoping I could use the same type of laser for my SR9. the only other holster I could find was a FobusGLT17. Thank you Richard Morinmember #67495 E-mail # richandjane3@q.com Phone # (503) 981-3830. useless

    1. Richard,

      Veridian sells a kydex holster for the SR9 and their laser for $39


    2. try action pro lenny megills out of san deigo ca i order from him

  3. I have a Bersa Ultra-sub Compact “Thunder 45″
    i love the power and the small package it come in.
    i also bought my wife a PK 380 witch she loves.
    both guns have been modified to fift ours hands
    and having a gun that fits right is key to using it

  4. It looks like veridian is giving you a free kydex holster with the purchase of their laser. It shows it a 39.99 retail price, but maybe you can get it free or dicounted depending on when and where you purchased you laser.

  5. I have a sr9c Glock23,I,m not good at finding holsters for concealed for those two guns,any suggestions?

    1. Desantis inside the waist band … 032B6
      All leather except for the metal clip, as comfortable as can bee for a gun as wide as the G23 (a great gun I might add)

      Find a shop where you can try it out before buying. This is a ‘must’ before you buy any holster.

      Good Luck


    2. blackhawk paddle hoslter from bass pro

    3. First off be sure to get to your local fun shop or sporting goods “big box” to access the gun and holster fit. And do not assume that the products packaging is correct and that such and such a gun fits this particular holster. Get the holster out of the package and firmly fit you gun inside. If you don’t like the stores price you can then putt your on-line shopping fingers to work. I would bet that buying on-line without first getting the feel on your hip or waiste and proper gun to holster fit–you would likely be sending it back for a refund ASAP. Google can help you find a long list of local stores and on-line holster providers. Good Luck

    4. Try the Crossbread. I love mine. Carry Glock 23 & 36, use crossbread with both. Wow what a comfortable way to carry.

  6. Bill Kennard

    I carry a Glock 23-40 cal. I holster it with a Don Hume leather inside the belt. I purchased the holster just after I purchased the Glock, it fits snugly against my body and is very confortable. The only problem, I have to remember to readjust before setting if not the Glock will push upward and can be seen bulging under my shirt. The holster, after 3 years, looks as new as the day I purchased it.

  7. I have found blackhawk to be very nice holsters. Check out http://www.glockworld.com or Dicks sporting goods or
    Gander MTN.

  8. i have the sr9 and glock 23 i think they are a little big for conceal carry.

    1. Definately not to big. I carry the SR9C with laser sights and I am only 5’7 170 lbs and slender build. I use the Crossbreed holster and carry 14 to 16 hr days. Very comfortable. I also carry the Colt double eagle in 45 in the same manor. Very concealable if done right.

  9. I purchased my wife who is a beginner in concealed carry a Bersa Thunder 22 LR. This gun fitts her hand very good but seems heavy anought to shoot accurately. Very inexspencive to shoot and practice. What do you think about this gun for a beginning gun also, I’m concidering a crossbreed supertuck IWB holster for her, is this really a good conceal holster for women.

    I also would like input on Crossbreed Supertuck for myself to use with a Ruger P95 9 mil. Reviews rate this holster very good.
    Is there a better and more concealable holsters. I work with a floor buffer in front waist high and then a backpack sprayer on back, which makes some holsters difficult.

    1. I have a Kimber ultra CDP II that I carry in a crossbreed supertuck. I carry it daily while driving loading and unloading and putting orders away and this may be hard to belived but sometimes the feeling of carring it isn’t there. I love the crossbreed supertuck

      1. Kimber Ultra CDPII with a crossbreed supertuck. This is the set up I’m looking for. Thanks for the comment. In my area (Oregon) Kimbers are waaay on backorder but I’ll get there.

  10. I bought a Kimber Ultra CDPII in .45ACP I am extremely satisfied with this pistol,the accuracy and quality is unmatched. I carry all the time with a belt holster which is easily concealed by my tee shirt. While riding my Motorcycle though I keep one in the chamber and wear it exposed. With all the road rage cases lately it seems to be quite a deterrant. I know this is a “heavier pistol than most, but the feeling of security is priceless….

  11. Just bought my wife a Ruger LCR with a Crimson laser. We took quite a bit of time to make sure it fit her hand well before we made the investment.

    I am undecided about the LCP and the LC9. I like the idea of the 9mm and it does fit my hand quite well. I just think it is a little to large to carry in my pocket and the belt pouch I found was also rather large.

    I am thinking the LCP with Safety Slug ammo is the best option for me. Does anyone have any other suggestions?

  12. not sure this is the right place for this but how about an article on soft body armor and one on fast reloads from under concealed colthing

  13. I carry a Citadel 1911A1 in .45 ACP. As Steve said, it’s a little large, but I like the feeling of security. I’ve also found Blackhawk holsters to be quite good.

  14. I bought my wife a Bersa Thunder22, Great gun for her hand I thought should be very concealable. I ordered a Crossbreed Supertuck. Crossbreed called back and said they don’t make a holster for that gun. I would like some idea’s on good conceal holsters, preferably IWB easy excess, comfortable and deep concealed. It would be great for someone with experiance with this type holster.

  15. This is my first time to this forum and I find it very helpful and
    interesting, even though I have been carrying concealed for many years. I read “Steve’s” post of Aug 7 and am wondering which states can you carry exposed in. I am in Michigan and “brandishing” a firearm is illegal. I also ride, and it certainly would be more comfortable to carry it exposed.
    Thanks to everyone for your valuable information and viewpoints.

  16. johnjellison@cox.net

    Well, I just signed-up and am reading this for the first time. It is good info. and I am wanting to select the right gun, as well as holster. I am wondering what caliber is best as well. Any comments are welcome.

    1. The beginner mistake I made was buying a firearm to large for effective concealed carry, and also to costly to fire regularly. I settled on a Glock 27 with a 40-9 conversion barrel. I can now shoot the cheaper 9mm load and simply change barrel for defensive carry, without the expense of two differeent firearms. I also had to learn to purchase clothing to effectively cover without impeding my draw ability. I’d recommend going to the local gun range and rent, try multiple calibers and brands. Consider whether you will carry concealed all the time, and if so are their any health problems that may be complicated as a result. There is a lot to think about before purchasing your first firearm. Don’t be afraid to ask questions like in these forums, before making a purchase.

  17. I bought a snug nose .38 S&W revolver WWII which is way too heavy and bulky for me to carry concealed. I bought my second weapon for concealment, a Sig P232, .380 cal at a local gun show, paid too much and it’s also too big/heavy for me to carry concealed. I fired a.380 LCP at a gun range and did not have contral of the weapon as the kick was too much. Any suggestion on a light weight 9 mm or .380 that would be smaller and lighter. Also type of carry holster would be appreciated. Thank you very much.

    1. jvoseckyw@yahoo

      I got a 9 mil Ruger non metal handle. I am new at buying guns. I went to an NRA class and this one was the easiest to shoot and not much recoil. I am still not good at aiming. I need lots more training, but this gun is the easiest to shoot. I was given a S&W 38 hammerless revolver, but it is hard for me to hold down the safety and shoot. I have to use two hands.

    2. A nice 9 mm for concealed carry is the Beretta PX4 Storm Sub-Compact. I also have a Beretta 9 mm Cougar (Inox finish) just a bit big for CC, but think the Mini Cougar might work well for concealed carry.

  18. For “hilosmom” if you fired a .380 LCP and the “kick” (recoil) was too much for you, that probably means a .380 that is light weight will be too much for you. You may have to go to a .32 to be comfortable with a lightweight pistols recoil. Best thing to do is to fire several different pistols to see if there are any that you can handle. The Baretta Tomcat .32 is something you might want to try. Its a little thicker then some but, that will dampen the felt recoil.

  19. To Hilosmom, Check out a Bersa Thunder22, very comfortable to shoot and conceal, great reviews all over web. We bought a nice In Waist Band Tuckable Holster from Highnoon Holsters.

    First go to a shooting Range try different pistols and calibers for comfort. Also some pistols are expensive to purchase ammo. This makes it more expensive to practice with. Try a Gun safety class, some police departments offer these free. If you don’t know your gun its not alot of protection to you. There are several ways to conceal carry. Crossbreed holsters make a great concealed carry holster but they don’t make holsters for all pistols.
    If you can find a friend with some experiance and pick there brain.


  20. Love this site! Thank you for sharing such valuable information with us! BTW, I have a Bersa .380 and am not very happy with it. The track that the magazine slides in on allows a screw to wiggle loose and it keeps the magazine from going in all the way. Not very reliable in the event of an emergency!

    1. Buy some Loc Tite blue and put a drop on the screw then screw it in tightly. That screw won’t be coming loose anymore!

  21. Kimber ultra CDP ll is the finest carry gun I could find. Being An avid shooter this gun touched all the bases.

  22. I own a Keltec P-11 9mil.. It is a little rough to handle. Also it is hard to hit what aim at. I used a S&W 59 9Mil. and the recoil was light and easy to shoot & hit the target. What is the best 9mm to carry and easy to shoot?

  23. I’m retired leo. I strongly recommend anyone seeking to carry conceal to go to a reputed gun range/store. Find a staff member with good gun knowledge. Sample ,and test some calibers, and gun types.
    The object is to get a firearm you can control, and be comfortable with. And hit what you aim at without flinching, which throws your aim off. Make sure you practice a lot with whatever gun you get. Above all, remember; once the bullet leaves the muzzle, it’ will hit whatever it finds in it’s way ! So ALWAYS point the muzzle in a safe direction. Take children to range as well. have a range officer teach them gun safety. whether they know there is a firearm or not. If it is kept loaded for house protection, they should know not to touch it. Train them that if they get curious about it, they can always ask you to show it to them. UNLOADED ! I’ve trained mine from 5- yrs old, never a mishap. The danger exsists when they visit friends who may want to show off their parents gun. Your child should then leave, and tell an adult. As responsible gun owners, we should always respect laws and others around us so that they don”t feel threatened by a careless gun carrier. We don’t need to feed the anti gun sentiment. Guns are not dangerous untill grasped by a human hand ! Unless there is a lot of training, and common sense behind that grasp.

  24. Just purchased a Bersa Thunder .380. I think it is a very under rated weapon. With the 9 round deluxe mag, I have good rapid fire capabilities in a very concealable piece. I haven’t fire a handgun in over fifty years, but find myself able to score high in a reasonably tight group on a silhouette target from 3, 7, and 15 yards, the qualifying distances for a CHL in Texas.

    I am still trying to work out exactly how I will carry. I have a shoulder problem that makes a 3 or 4 o’clock carry difficult. I have s Galco IWB. Concealment works, but delivery is difficult.

    So I have hand fit and accuracy in hand, but now I need the carry and delivery problems solved.

  25. My experience as a 25 year retired Police Officer is: a revolver is the best pistol for a new pistol user…you can tell if its got a round in the chamber instantly, no guess work, fires with just a pull of the
    trigger…..the best for new users! Automatics are for more experienced pistol shooters. I use either because I am used to all firearms….still proffer a revolver….rare to have a jam from the
    case getting caught in the slide in a revolver. No slide.

  26. Very good comments. I found a very good used Kahr PM9 w/ tritium sights (9mm, 6+1 capacity) at a gun store that allowed me to fire the pistol, even had customer in the store who was familiar with this pistol help me and give me pointers. I got this specifically for conceal carry and keep it with me all the time, although most of the time I cannot carry it on my person, because of my office attire. This pistol fires everytime, feeds well. My first semiauto was a Smith & Wesson M&P9 – got that because that’s what I used to get my CCP here in TN, and I liked it and the high capacity (17+1). It is a great pistol, but too large for conceal carry. I consider that one my home defense pistol – it is readily available in the house, as is my wife’s Ruger LCR. The LCR does have some kick, but is a fine small 38sp that can be concealed easily. For both the LCR and the PM9, we have the #8 Blackhawk IWB nylon holster with plastic clip – very comfortable and concealable.

  27. I would recommend a Sig Sauer P229 in 9mm. It is smaller than my Sig P226 but still holds 12 rounds I believe and is meant for concealed carry. It also has reasonable recoil. I would also recommend Galco’s Concealable belt holster for $99.95. It is what I carry mine in and it is molded custom for the gun you order it for. It fits like a glove and feels good to carry for 12 hours. It’s so comfortable I forget that it’s there. Hope this helps you!

  28. andysbootcamp

    I got a Kel-tec 9mm any recommendations on holsters for conceal carry?

  29. I just recently purchased the Ruger LC9 with laser beam for myself. I gave my wife my S & W SPL with the laser beam.. No guesswork or decisions if needed, she can see it’s loaded ready to fire by pulling the trigger. We both hope we never have to use either of them. Shooting another human is something never forgotten even if it saves ours or anyone elses life.

  30. Go to a range that rent as many pistols as you can, don’t buy something because others say its the best. shoot as many as you can, and find what meets your needs.

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